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Reposted from Scout Finch by JaxDem
Better put that steak and lobster back!
Missouri lawmakers are on a new quest to further demoralize and degrade citizens who rely on SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program). State Representative Rick Brattin has introduced a bill that would, among other things, prevent food stamps from being used to purchase fish and steak. From House Bill 813:
A recipient of supplemental nutrition assistance program benefits shall not use such benefits to purchase cookies, chips, energy drinks, soft drinks, seafood, or steak.
More from the Riverfront Times:
"There's a long history of trying to dictate what somebody should be buying on food stamps. The program itself has been really stigmatized," says Washington University professor Mark Rank, who authored Living on the Edge: The Realities of Welfare in America.


"There have been a lot of studies on fraud, when there were actually people buying, trading and selling their EBT cards, but it was a very small percentage of the overall population," he says. "But fish is good for you -- why should that be prohibited?"

Good question. Why would healthy foods be prohibited? Perhaps because state Rep. Brattin has images of welfare queens sitting around and dining on steak and lobster? Maybe state Rep. Brattin should take the Welfare Food Challenge and find out for himself just how hard it is to prepare healthy meals on a food stamp budget.
Reposted from kilesa by nomandates

Continuing a series of posts on Older Americans Act (OAA) Programs, this post will give an overview of the goals and services of the Senior Nutrition Program. Next week, I hope to continue with part 2 that covers some of the funding history and current issues specific to the program.

The first installment, Older Americans Act Primer was posted last week to give a high level overview of the OAA and its goals.

As I said last week, my intention with this series is to increase awareness of the services available to seniors within their communities. This serves two purposes, an altruistic one of helping people receive some very needed services as well as my selfish and subversive intent of increasing the visibility of the government services that are specific to SENIORS as an interest group.

Seniors vote and we know (statistically speaking) that a majority of them vote for Republicans. I have the hope that if seniors understand how their benefits are receiving stealth cuts from the people they keep electing to office, it may effect their choices in future elections.

OAA programs are not an exciting subject, its dry, bureaucratic stuff. But they really do make differences in people lives.

Continue Reading

Sun Mar 15, 2015 at 05:32 AM PDT

Seniors & Food Insecurity

by MNDem999

Reposted from MNDem999 by nomandates

Short diary - but hopefully helpful to someone.

When I was young– we were really poor – dirt poor farmers and we use to receive a box of USDA commodity food every once in a while (I was young and didn’t pay much attention).  The best I can remember we got powdered milk my mom used for cooking – we got gelatinous canned beef that my mom turned into gourmet meals – we got a block of cheese.  It must have been needed, because my parents never turned it down.

I was young then – now I’m older and the issue of food insecurity remains an issue.
As noted by some statistics by Feeding America, it is a real issue for seniors.

In 2013, 10 percent of seniors (4.2 million older adults age 65 and older) lived below the poverty line.

In 2013, 2.9 million (9%) households with seniors experienced food insecurity. 1.1 million (9%) households composed of seniors living alone experienced food insecurity.

The number of food insecure seniors is projected to increase by 50% when the youngest of the Baby Boom Generation reaches age 60 in 2025.

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Reposted from Daily Kos Labor by JaxDem
Bowl of apples, nectarines, and bananas.
One of the changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program that well-meaning people on the left and not-so-well-meaning people on the right sometimes float is to make it more like the Women, Infants, and Children nutrition assistance program by prohibiting the use of SNAP benefits to buy certain unhealthy foods. There are so many problems with this. For one thing, it ignores that sometimes, unhealthy foods are the best options available, whether because people live in a food desert or don't have access to a working kitchen to cook in. For another, such proposals are basically about stigmatizing low-income people and restricting their choices.

The thing is, you don't hear Republicans talking about expanding people's options, even though there's good evidence that it works:

One USDA pilot program in Massachusetts provides a credit of 30 cents for every SNAP dollar spent on fruits and vegetables. The preliminary data shows the program resulted in a 25 percent increase in produce consumption. A similar program that doubles SNAP expenditures at farmers markets—you get $2 worth of fresh produce for every SNAP dollar you spend—has shown similar promise.
What's more, the assumption that food stamp recipients need to be told what to eat—or at least, what not to eat—comes out of the belief that they eat uniquely badly, or that they spend their government aid on unhealthy things they wouldn't otherwise buy. In fact:
A 2008 USDA report found that they are less likely than those with higher incomes to consume at least one serving of sweets or salty snacks per day. More recently, a 2015 USDA study concluded that, adjusting for demographic differences, people who take SNAP benefits don't consume any more sugary drinks than their low-income peers who aren't in the program.
But the Republicans campaigning to cut SNAP just aren't interested in a complicated reality. They're interested in cutting SNAP. In making poor and near-poor people more desperate. In stigmatizing poor and near-poor people to help create a political atmosphere to go after more cuts, affecting more people.
Reposted from Daily Kos Labor by Ojibwa
Children eating school lunch
Three states and two tribal nations will get $27 million in grants to help fight child hunger, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced. Nice, right? Wellll ... there's a catch, as Ned Resnikoff explains. See, the grants are made possible by the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, which was championed by Michelle Obama—and which was paid for by cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
“It’s the old magician’s trick of misdirection,” [New York City Coalition Against Hunger executive director Joel Berg] said. “Look at the shiny coin while we’re picking your pocket.”

In order to fund the programs in the HHFKA, the bill’s authors took $2.2 billion from SNAP’s coffers. Many House Democrats expressed reluctance about legislation that would slash food stamp benefits, but the bill passed after Michelle Obama lobbied Congress and the White House assured reticent Democrats that funding would be restored in the future.

That was in 2010. Then, Republicans won the House and the money was never replaced, leading to the abrupt SNAP benefits cut of November 2013. So it's nice that kids in Nevada, Kentucky, Virginia, and the Chickasaw and Navajo nations will benefit from new programs to fight hunger. But the fact is, many of those same kids are probably in households that had their food stamps cut in 2013, in part because of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act.
Reposted from Hunter by nomandates
Wisconsin state Sen. Glenn Grothman (R)
As the man most likely to someday usurp Rep. Louie Gohmert's throne as America's Dumbest Congressman, Wisconsin's Rep. Glenn Grothman has some mighty big shoes to fill. I think he's up to the challenge.
Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-Wis.) reportedly said at a town hall in his district last week that constituents should monitor purchases made with debit cards from Food Share, which is Wisconsin's name for the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

Grothman "told the people in attendance to keep an eye on the types of things people on Food Share buy at the grocery store," Oshkosh Northwestern Media reported Monday.

Because that's what poor Americans really need, to have the whole store looking over their shoulder when they're buying groceries, looking to see if there's anything there that Congressman Glenn Grothman needs to know about. Don't you think you should be buying generic-brand rice, not the fancy stuff? Do your kids really need romaine lettuce? What the hell's wrong with iceberg? A bag of chips? You. Monster.

Yeah, that will make everything better.

It's not clear what problem dispatching these eagle-eyed Grothman Junior Rangers is meant to solve. You are already not allowed to buy certain things with SNAP benefits—cigarettes, for example—and the stores themselves are very familiar with the rules. The purpose seems to be silently (hopefully silently) judging people for the sake of doing that, in order to make life in poverty just that much more humiliating for families needing the help.

Is it Gohmertian dumb, though? Hmm. It's getting there. It has the right mix of rigorously enforced paranoia and general seething hostility toward less-"worthy" Americans, and his solution, which is effectively to just be an ass to people in public for no discernible end other than being an ass, is a fine attempt at pointless, belligerent stupidity. Yes, I'd say he's definitely worth our continued attentions.

Reposted from Scout Finch by Ojibwa
St. John Center for Homeless Men
As sub-zero temps swept into much of the country, Kenneth Winfield made his way to a Louisville homeless shelter in November:
"He started crying," recalled Maria Price, executive director of the day shelter. "He said, 'Please help me find an apartment. I don't want to die out there.' "
He returned again last week, but was apparently too late:
Winfield was found on the steps of the St. John Center amid sub-zero temperatures Thursday night and later died, Price said.
An autopsy is being conducted to determine the cause of death. Although Winfield had been living on the streets for years, he'd been trying to find a place to live:
Price said Winfield had applied for a federal supportive housing program that provides a rent voucher, counseling and social service support.

However, during an assessment as part of the application process Winfield "didn't score high enough to be considered the most vulnerable," Price said, so he was still waiting for an opening. She said officials at the center, whose 70 vouchers are all full, were continuing to work to find him space in other housing programs.

Representatives of St. John's called it a huge loss for their community:
Winfield had been a client at St. John's for at least four years, Price said, describing him as congenial and friendly. He wanted to serve as an ambassador for the center.

"He'd take a garbage bag around the block and pick up trash. He wanted us to be good neighbors," Price said.

Natalie Harris, the executive director of the Coalition of the Homeless in Louisville said that while the city has done a better job finding homes for men and veterans, they've seen troubling trends for families and youth:
While there has been a 1 percent to 3 percent decrease annually in the homeless population in recent years, unfortunately, there are small increases in some populations including women and families. Harris said there is a waiting list for families and children to get into shelters. She said there is also an increase in young adults, those 18 to 24, which had doubled to about 500 homeless people in recent years before leveling off.
Louisville's Mayor Greg Fischer has asked residents to "show more compassion" in frigid temperatures and to share their stories on social media to inspire others to help.
Reposted from Scout Finch by Ojibwa
NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 28: Businessmen walk by a homeless man on the street on September 28, 2010 in New York City. A new report released by the U.S. Census Data shows that the income gap between Americans is greater than at any other time on record. The re
Volunteers with Saxon/Hart tried to help those in need during frigid temperatures by handing out blankets at New York City's Port Authority Bus Terminal and were shocked when authorities turned them away:
“When we got to Port Authority we were told we can’t give them out because they don’t want the homeless to get too comfortable there,” Saxon/Hart spokeswoman Michelle Tolson told 1010 WINS.


“We weren’t trying to make people more comfortable in the station, we just wanted people to not freeze,” Tolson said. “There have been deaths because of these awful temperatures and that’s what we’re trying to do is just help people that are stuck on the street.”

The Port Authority has issued a statement:
“The Port Authority is committed to assisting the homeless and has worked with Urban Pathways and other leading service providers for nearly 20 years at the Bus Terminal to ensure that homeless and at-risk New Yorkers have the housing, services and support they need. We appreciate Saxon/Hart’s willingness to help and we will meet with them and Urban Pathways to see how Saxon can best compliment Urban Pathway’s efforts and ensure that all New Yorkers are kept warm during this bitter cold season.”
No good deed goes unpunished.
Reposted from Daily Kos by JaxDem
People living in poverty areas by state, 2010. Big band of dark blue across the entire south.
Is Welfare Reform Causing Earlier Deaths?
A recent public health study tests the hypothesis that welfare can be shut off like a leaky faucet and the poor will suddenly become motivated toward self-sufficiency. For those budgetary savings, it seems that people might pay with their lives.

Researchers found that cutting off support leaves lasting scars on the most vulnerable segment of the TANF population—the neediest families: “TANF enrollees with pre-school aged children or larger families are both more likely to be food insecure and, at least among those required to enter the workforce quickly, in poorer mental health.” The projections show that despite “very large direct monetary savings…for both individuals and for the US government, TANF may also harm women who could not subsequently work (whether due to young children at home, large family sizes, mental illness, and/or physical illness). Some may have ended up relying on weak financial networks or become homeless.”

Blast from the Past. At Daily Kos on this date in 2010Vice President Biden: 'The test ban treaty is as important as ever.':

It's turning out to be a rather eventful week for nuclear weapons news, on both the domestic front and the international stage. For the sake of clarity, I'm going to deal with what's going on in the US in this post, and address international issues separately.

First of all, the Obama administration is in the home stretch regarding the Nuclear Posture Review (NPR); the President's national security team met yesterday to discuss the options they will present to the president, so he can make his final decision regarding "U.S. nuclear policy, strategy, capabilities and force posture" for at least half of the next decade. It is a legislatively mandated review, and I've written about it in several previous posts. Since the meeting was behind closed doors, we don't know many specifics, but national security expert and Ploughshares Fund president Joe Cirincione has laid out what form he thinks the final NPR should take.

Secondly, today, the administration continued to prove its ability to multitask on nuclear weapons issues. Vice President Joe Biden gave a speech at the National Defense University in which he basically expanded on his Wall Street Journal op-ed piece from several weeks ago, in which he discussed the proposed budget for the nuclear weapons complex, and why it is important in the overall national security picture.

As Travis Sharp noted over at the Nukes of Hazard, Biden's speech today took the middle ground regarding criticism of the new nuclear budget.

Tweet of the Day

It's so weird how we waged two wars against Iraq with a decade of crippling sanctions in between and somehow it's a total violent mess.

On today's Kagro in the Morning show, we sandwiched regular guests Greg Dworkin and Joan McCarter in between some particularly astonishing GunFAIL follow-ups today. Why won't Obama lead? Oh, he's leading? Well, why won't he lead someone else? A 2016 polling roundup. Oklahoma lawmakers love teh dum. A look at the Dem side of the 2016 spectrum vs. the Gop side. Obamacare signups pass 11 million. Trey Gowdy wants more special investigative committees. More discussion of the crumbling King case. Stuff I don't like is the new treason. Still on the verge of a DHS shutdown. Jeb's "his own man." And Republicans are getting the voter suppression band back together, too.

High Impact PostsTop Comments

Reposted from elenacarlena by JoanMar

On January 23, 2015, Santa Cruz Indymedia reported that a lawsuit had been filed by the HPLAP (Homeless Persons' Legal Assistance Project) in Santa Cruz, CA, against the local municipality because of an ordinance allowing the police to issue "stay away" orders to the homeless on the beaches or in the parks.  The HPLAP states that the ordinance is unconstitutional, with violations of the right to freedom of peaceful assembly, the right to due process, and the right to equal protection under the law.

Seabright State Beach; dogs permitted!
Seabright Beach, Santa Cruz, CA
Of course criminalization of homelessness will increase police interactions with this population and thus their associated dangers.  Admittedly, not every cop is a jerk when dealing with the unhoused.  Yet when the cops are called to remove the homeless, they sometimes beat them or taze them or shoot and kill them.

On the other hand, programs to treat homelessness through Housing First initiatives, such as the program begun in Salt Lake City in 2006, have been gathering increasing attention due to their astonishing success.  The best part about these programs if you're a progressive:  They succeed at drastically reducing the number of people in need of shelter and are on track to eliminate chronic homelessness in those cities that have adopted such programs.  The best part, perhaps, if you're a conservative:  These programs save cities giant piles of money.  Salt Lake City estimates they spend about $7800 per person per year for housing, and that amount includes supportive services.  Prior to this program, they spent over $20,000 per unhoused person per year.  They found that programs that required behavior such as staying off of drugs in order to "earn" permanent housing meant that homelessness was not being reduced; the continued stress of not knowing if there would be a place to live did not improve mental health.  Thus the Housing First model.  Once that stress is relieved, people voluntarily start to improve other aspects of their lives.

Why would increased spending on apartments and utilities and food for the homeless save money?  Because without such services, those we have abandoned on the streets do not magically disappear.  They have to find a way to live.  Thus they use prison and emergency services at huge levels.  It costs a great deal more to keep someone in jail or treat someone in an emergency room than to simply give them the means to live.  And criminalizing homelessness simply results in more funds spent on jails and prisons, a temporary "solution" since the homeless are still homeless upon release.  Then in addition, when civil rights are violated, there are all the costs associated with lawsuits such as the above.

So please join me below today's orange squiggle of good news for the story of Santa Cruz.

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Tue Feb 17, 2015 at 12:46 PM PST

Oh, those pesky Food Stamps

by jbelvl

Reposted from jbelvl by JekyllnHyde

Of course they aren't really food stamps, they are more properly called SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), i.e., not stamps at all, but a card used much like a debit/credit card at the grocery store.

This is where my story begins, but first let me start out by saying I'm a retired psychotherapist and I have a tendency to question everything people say to me...just not all the time, or in every situation.

Three weeks ago, I was in line to pay for groceries and I was waiting as a lady three people ahead of me was using a SNAP card to pay for her groceries.  The lady directly in front of me turned.

"I saw that woman climb out of a Cadillac Escalade.  She was right in front of me when I parked.  What in the hell is up with her?  You and I both know if she's driving a car like that, she can afford to pay for those groceries.  She's one of them scammers," she said in an embarrassing semi-whisper I knew the SNAP lady could hear.

"Scammers?," I whispered.  "What's your definition of a scammer?"

"Anyone who takes from hard working tax paying people when they have no business doing so.  She's got no business taking food out of people's mouths who actually need it.  She's worse than a cheat, she's a swindler and a cheat, and a...a dirty rotten person."  Luckily, the SNAP lady was out of hearing range by that time.

I didn't immediately jump into the fray with this woman, had to pursue this attitude she held about food allotments.  I had never used food stamps in the past, so I really had no preconceived attitude toward the practice of handing them out or what they were used for other than just plain groceries.  I laid my groceries down, asked the checker to look after them, and I would be right back.  I wanted to quiz the SNAP lady about the car and the card she was using.  Here's what I learned:

Briefly, the SNAP program is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, a government assistance program to help low-income households pay for food. SNAP used to be called the Food Stamp program. The amount of SNAP food stamps a household gets depends on the household's size, income, and expenses.

Eligibility is based upon on your household's net monthly income. Your household's net monthly income is your total countable income minus certain allowable deductions.

Allowable deductions include a standard deduction, an earned income deduction, and deductions for medical expenses for elderly or disabled household members, dependent care, shelter costs, and child support payments.

And, you CANNOT buy anything you want at the grocery store.  Some items are a no-no, like cigarettes and alcohol, prescriptions and/or vitamins, non-food items [paper products, etc.], and hot foods ready eat.

But back to the LADY SCAMMER who drove the Cadillac Escalade.  I followed her out of the store, stopping her as she opened the Caddy's rear hatch and began a dialog with her while helping her load her goods.  I won't bore you with the entrails of our discussion, but here's the high points.

I asked her about the Caddy and her use of food stamps and how people might think she was a scammer.  Here is her reply:

"First of all, the car isn't mine, it's my ex-brother-in-law's.  Mine got repossessed last month.  Secondly, I'm unmarried and I have two daughters ages 10 and 12 who need to get fed.  Oh, and I lost my job when the car got repo-ed cause I couldn't get to work.  Then, I had no transportation to go looking for a job and, as you know, here in good ol' Idaho you have to be able to drive cause public transportation sucks.  And if I don't find work soon, me and the kids'll be out on the street cause rent's due in two weeks.  I've never been on food stamps before and I can't wait to get off of them...I am DEFINITELY not a scammer."  We talked a bit more, I finished helping her load the groceries and she drove off in that slick [not-her-own] white Escalade.

The lady made me think, hey, looks are deceiving and people who are judging this woman haven't a clue what she's facing.

Now understand, I'm a realist.  I know there are people out there who scam.  In fact, it has been my experience that if there is a system and there is money in that system, somebody will try a scam to pocket some of it.  However, the vast majority of people who get welfare need the help.  What kind of a society would we be if we kicked those people to the curb and didn't try to help them out?  Personally, I don't want to live in a society that practices Social Darwinism.

Reposted from Daily Kos Labor by JaxDem
Graph showing Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program expenditures as share of GDP, with a noticeable drop in 2014.
As Republican opponents of government spending on nutrition assistance have railed and fussed in recent years about the rising number of people getting food stamps, opponents of hunger have pointed out that that's how the program is supposed to work: when the economy is bad, more people need help, and they get it. But when the economy improves and people go back to work, get more hours of work, or get raises, fewer people need help, and so they stop getting it. It's not that difficult of a concept, but Republicans used the spike in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program participation to argue for cuts, pretending that people were gaming the system rather than struggling in a crappy economy.

Well, guess what. As predicted by responsible analysts, food stamp expenditures fell in 2014 as a share of the gross domestic product. Part of that was due to the expiration of temporary benefits increases under the 2009 stimulus bill, but there was also this:

The number of SNAP participants has started to fall. SNAP caseloads grew significantly between 2007 and 2011 as the recession and lagging economic recovery led more low-income households to qualify and apply for help. SNAP caseload growth slowed substantially in 2012 and 2013, however, and caseloads fell by about 2 percent in fiscal year 2014.
Don't expect this to put a dent in Republican efforts to stigmatize people who do need nutrition assistance, though—even as Republicans block a minimum wage increase that would let many workers earn enough to not need food stamps anymore.
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